THE LEGAL UMBRELLA that shelters the CBC’s big-city TV stations from local competition is no protection against private U. S. stations; a handful of opportunists in places like Plattsburg, N.Y. (opposite Montreal), and Buffalo are proving it by dipping into Canada for both viewers and sponsors. But the past-master of piggy-backing on the CBC's monopoly is Rogan Jones of Bellingham. Wash., whose KVOS-TV bombards southern B. C. from 69 miles below the border seven days a week with CBS network shows, cannedseries shows, old movies and endless commercials.
Four-fifths of the advertisers and three-quarters of the audience are Canadian, and the handful who actually live in Bellingham sometimes feel abused. Earlier this year, for example, they were hit by 151 puzzling plugs to vote Conservative. Liberal or Social Credit (the CCF couldn’t afford any).
A staff of 15 scrambles to sell and produce the ads in the Vancouver office, KVOS-TV (Canada) Ltd. “We
produce more commercials than any other TV station on the continent,” boasts manager Gordon Reid, a Canadian. "KVOS is an animated electronic billboard.” snap back defenders of the CBC, which is under fire for keeping private Canadian stations out while Jones cashes in. With everything to gain from the CBC’s one-channel policy, Jones himself pours verbal oil on suggestions of friction: "The CBC are nice people.”
When he followed 32 years of radio broadcasting in the Bellingham (pop. 35.000) area with KVOS-TV in 1953— about five months before CBC's CBUT went on the air—Jones was working with $80,000 worth of U. S. army surplus equipment. He won’t say how much money he's made since by cultivating the CBC’s vineyard, but his Bellingham studios, and their powerful transmitter mounted on an off-shore island for a clear shot at the southwestern corner of B. C., are now worth half a million.
Almost any Vancouver home can
pick up KVOS with rabbit ears or a simple antenna. A survey shows 40% of those with sets do just that, Jones’ ad salesmen claim, against 36% for the CBC station, with the balance going to other U. S. stations. Since KVOS began feeding Saturday NHL hockey live off the CBS network—Vancouver’s only glimpse of major-league hockey— the response has been “phenomenal,” says manager Reid.
I he C BC's B. C. chief, Kenneth Caple. shrugs off these claims: “Ratings can be interpreted in countless ways. We’re not in competition with KVOS.
It’s our job to satisfy Canadian needs.” “Sure,” grins Jones. “The CBC used to be a week behind us with Ed Sullivan. But now we feed it to them live as a gesture of international friendship.”
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.